Operational Security: Your Trash Says a Lot about You

Garbage on Street

In many municipalities, trash at the curb is considered public domain. There are some arcane laws regarding this, however, and much depends on where you live. Therefore, assume once you have bagged it and placed it at the curb it is fair game for anyone that wants to grab a bag or two to sort through at their leisure.

If you pick up an item off the streets of New York City and put it in your car, for example, you’d be violating a local law. However, on the same token, a passerby on foot is allowed to take stuff from the curb without penalty, according to the city’s Department of Sanitation (Local10.com).

The Supreme Court in 1988 ruled that police could conduct a warrantless search of trash that had been left for collection outside the curtilage of the home. Curtilage is defined by the courts as,lands immediately surrounding a home, according to distance, what a fence encloses, and the nature of the land’s use and if the space can be easily observed”. State constitutions may define the term a little differently, but, typically, trash left by the curb or at the end of a driveway is considered outside curtilage (Local10.com).

Some municipalities consider trash at the curb theirs because they are contracted to pick it up. Regardless of the laws, however, trash at the curb can and will be either gone through at the curb or hauled off to be gone through somewhere else. It may be a random act, or you may be targeted by someone who wants to gather information about you, and your trash can be very revealing, and it is usually one of the first places someone will begin their search.

Obviously, you do not put credit card statements or banking documents in your trash for anyone to go through. This is how identity theft happens, and how bank accounts get drained, but what else in your trash reveals who you are, and what you are doing.

If you are a Prepper and want to keep that fact a secret or you want to keep people from knowing how well prepared you really are, then you have to be very careful about what you put in your trash.

Boxes that ammunition comes in obviously is an indication you are armed, and they can surmise the types of firearms you may have, not to mention the amount of Ammo boxes is relevant to some people.

Receipts tell a story, as well, so make sure they are shredded and/or burned. Shredding and then burning the bag ensures no one can put any pieces of the puzzle together.

You may live in an area where burning is banned or banned on days where there is a higher risk of a fire getting out of control. If you cannot burn, sensitive items, then you should shred what you can and bag and carry everything to a transfer station or place in a dumpster in a location that cannot be traced back to you. Put nothing in the bag that can link the bag to you.

You may need to get a burn permit for yard waste, and if you can get one, then do so, and burn all sensitive documents, and make sure they do in fact burn down to ash.

How much you drink and when may be relevant. If you have a considerable amount of empty beer cans or liquor bottles in your trash during the week, someone may conclude you will not be as alert as you should be. Someone may decide you are a prime target for a robbery.

Local10.com. (n.d.). Retrieved 2016, from http://www.local10.com/news/is-it-legal-to-take-items-out-of-someones-trash